Years ago I was home with my second child. In between diapers and naps I’d turn on the TV to give me some semblance of adult conversation and company. One afternoon I got sucked into an episode of Oprah (when it was a show, not an entire network), that completely changed my outlook on behavior and outcomes.
Now let me set a few things straight at the outset. I’m not super “touchy feely.” Ounce for ounce, the left side of my brain could pummel the right side in a street fight. If I can’t find reason for something, then I simply don’t do it. But this segment helped my logical mind make sense of the usefulness and depth of the right brain - and specifically what to do with it to get the best from myself and others.
In this particular show, Oprah was interviewing Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight. To give you the short version of her story - Jill was and is a Ph.D. and Brain Scientist (neuroanatomist technically) who, at 37, had a stroke. In the hours, days, and weeks that followed she experienced slowly losing her brain function to a comatose state. Her discoveries and insights as she oscillated from left and right hemispheres being “on and offline” are fascinating, but what smacked me in the face was her experience in the hospital.
She recounts that despite not being able to function, communicate or make sense of the world around her - she could perceive the energy of each person that came into the room with her. When her mother came to her bedside and crawled in, with only love and a focus completely on Jill, then Jill would find herself responding in kind. But when certain staff came into the room, she could sense their energy as well. She could sense the stress, or strain, or disengagement of people in her space. And that energy would in turn negatively affect her energy and healing. She would withdraw completely.
Her recount of the experience is extraordinary and her recovery, a miracle.
But what spoke to me most was the message that she and Oprah locked into during one particular segment. BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENERGY YOU BRING.
You may be asking yourself by now, “What does this have to do with business, or innovation or leadership?” I’d advocate that it has everything to do with it.
It is this sentiment and sense of self awareness that I’ve observed to be the key in making potentially charged situations productive versus destructive. And in innovation, there are 1,001 opportunities for charged situations. Innovation regularly creates change, chaos, fear equaling charged situations.
It isn't an easy practice. Nor is it something that I’ve mastered even with an awareness. And mind you, it doesn’t mean running into meetings like a cheerleader or forcing false positivity. It means being aware of the energy I bring and making sure that energy is as I intend it to be - not burdened from things before or after.
Now as I said at the outset, I’m a logical person. This does not come naturally to me. I myself have to be mindful in moments to go through a mental checklist before meetings to make sure I’m being responsible for the energy I bring. Feel free to steal it as a 30 second mental mantra before important meetings to help you be more mindful of the energy you bring.
Energy Mindset Checklist before a Meeting:
1. Everyone is here with good intensions and wants to do good work they can be proud of.
2. I, as the leader, set the tone for the energy and am the bellwether for the culture I want this organization to be.
3. I’ll listen exclusively to everyone there - with no devices or distractions - to make sure my energy is focused on them alone and they feel that I am 100% engaged with them. They are the most important thing at that moment.
4. Take a big breathe, let it out, release the furrow in your brow and let your face relax and open.
Check out more of Jill’s fascinating story and discoveries:
- Oprah clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T81a6zcQpHc&list=PLoaFSL0UPD2VW-3Pq3m2VW9y9OpxFK7AA&index=4
- Jill Bolte Taylor Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight#t-678479
- My Stroke of Insight, the Book : https://www.amazon.com/My-Stroke-Insight-Scientists-Personal/dp/0452295548